Here Be Dragons


8, 8, I forget what is for
So, there's this Dragon you see...that sleeps in the ruins of an underground Dwarven city...

(ahem) Very original, right? Well, until Tolkien's estate sues me, that's a conceit in my home campaign.

And it's a major goal---one they've been zig-zagging towards for years now because it's hard as heck to get to the City---let alone take on this dragon. They are rightfully cautious. Here are some of the layers of the onion they will have to peel:

(a) the quest for a legendary elven Ice Sword that will help them slay the Worm...​
(b) that's in a megadungeon (they left last summer to find a troublesome lost Crown that will hopefully appear in my Footprints Earth Temple publication)...​
(b) down and then up through in an Underwater Temple in the subterranean Sea of Shadows populated by a race of inbred, isolationist, and elitist Deep Ones...​
(c) in a crystalline chamber of burning bright light that melts flesh...​
(d) guarded by the unstoppable Colossus that fled with the Sword at the King's order during a subsequent invasion of their dungeon stronghold (hence the need for the Earth-Crown)...​
(e) that's beyond a factory of Kobolds whose genetically-altered Empress escaped from the Body Banks of the Mind Slavers...​
(f) that are aided by a tech-genius Dwarven betrayer (half-Duergar dead King's bastard, in love with his half-brother's wife---the imprisoned Queen)...​
(h) and employed for mass-producton of warcraft by the Nazgul-Necromancer, who wants to torture the dwarves for killing him the first time he attacked their city...​
(i) who rules from deep within the immense underground caverns in which sits his Shadow Tower---filled with undead spirits, a Shroom growing a half-orc clone-army and designer-plagues, exploited dopplegangers, bound-demons, fanatical human priests, and the missing/enslaved dwarf-wives...​
(j) and commands a wicked Witch-Wraith Lieutenant that's gathering an army in the Western Watchtower that spans the Gorge that holds the river-passages leading to the megadungeon (and enslaves the pathetic hobbit/Winkies that tug at your heart-strings)...​
(k) all of whom were also betrayed by the Dragon, after the magnificent subterranean City of Goren fell to it during the Night of Fire.​

Needless to say, it's gonna be awhile. (Since they are currently busy "Saving The Keep" from a slave-army of evil men from the South Empire right now...that's a feint, within a feint, within a feint...etc., by the true Darkest Power that walks the Earth. ).

As added incentive, if they don't get past the Dragon, sitting in a vault is a slow-ticking Doomsday Device recovered from a long-vanished civilization of Dominators that will crack the planet half-open some time in the next couple of decades if it is not properly reset by a frail semi-catatonic Dwarven-Master with a bad-heart and a Watch that manipulates Time (who is trapped in the megadungeon). But that's not so much about the Dragon, and more a sub-plot in the Mind Slaver's Time War...

They will also face the dreaded Random Wandering Monsters. (This is D&D, after all.)

Any who. (Did I miss any tropes?) --- Lot's of stuff going on in home-brewed Sandboxes!

Dragons, for my campaigns, are Mythic Creatures---not some sort of common wilderness fauna for Knight Errants to joust. Monster-Manual, Smonster-Manual---each one's unique and uber-lethal. A Nuke in the Stone Age.

So, what's the rub? I cannot convey how difficult it has been for me to name this particular terror. I have changed it several dozen times over that last 7 years since I mentally "birthed" the beast.

TODAY, I finally hit on one I liked. This time it's a keeper---feels 100% right.
From hence and evermore, it shall be known as...(trumpets blare)


...ahhh, feel the potential-energy of proper names!
(I think I may have peed myself a little there--just a's NOT a reoccurring problem. Honestly! I'm not THAT old---yet. Just got a "wee" bit too excited.)

(Oh yeah...if and when they do eventually get to the Lost City to face the Dragon...I assure you there will be a TWIST! --- Illusions, Lies, and Deceptions will abound!
Shhh! Mums the word on that for now---probably shouldn't have told you!. Dude! Come on! Shut up! Jerk-face! You'll ruin everything! )

This thread:

>>>> Tell me about your dragons! (or campaigns, worlds, multi-verse, or whatever) <<<<​

Feed my sense of Awe and Wonder! Spin your stories.

G' on now...don't be shy! ( I won't steal **too** much...and for Bryce's sake keep it evocative and terse. ;P )
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8, 8, I forget what is for
Back in college, an actor/friend shared with me the advice of his acting coach:

"Other people's opinion of you are none of your damn business!"
Truth? Maybe..but in any case, I'll resist asking...

[..and, NO, in case you're thinking it, my shirt does not have two long sleeves tied in the back---Duh! How could I type?]
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8, 8, I forget what is for
Dear friends, surely one of you is bold enough to share a Tall Tale or two...No?
A rare opportunity---someone is actually asking to hear your back-stories. :)


8, 8, I forget what is for
Ack! I surrender! Tell me where to send the check.
(But the Dragon's name is all MINE you old ghost!)

What's the old saying? Oh yeah, "Good composers borrow...Great ones steal!"

Seriously though---I'm a huge fan. Could I please get you to sign my 1977 LotR paperback edition?
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Two orcs

Officially better than you, according to PoN
I have had a few dragons waiting in the wings but my players have studiously avoided them.


Should be playing D&D instead
As promised I try to make it brief ;-P

The first story is about a campaign I DMed like 8 years ago.
Pathfinder was the big thing round here back then and everyone (and their cat) was playing it. Being a bit younger and dumber than now and having never heard of the OSR I too dived right in.
Though the Pathfinder Campaign Setting of Golarion was a bit too ... well, too bullshitty for my tastes. Fantasy kitchen sink anyone?
So I wanted to do my own thing and that I did.
The "World" I created was called "Sandrin" ... basically I envisioned it as a closed of plane of existence.
Short Backstory:
High tech society (The Ahor'Cazay) in deep space fled their doomed homeworld in a big ark. Eldritch abomination (Zhyulam) found the ark, subdued and mutated the people on board and crashed on Golarion. Mutated people (now called Ahorcas) began invading the lands, an alliance led by a coalition of elder dragons finally defeated them, sealed Zhyulam inside the ark, put the Ark inside a big stone needle and used their enormous power to create a demiplane of existence and put the whole region around the needle (called "The Dorn" now) inside this new prison plane.
Four dragons were choosen as guardians of this prison a red, a green, a black and a copper one.
On Golarion the whole thing was quickly forgotten, while the people of "Sandrin" lived inside their prison dimension for the next 3000 years.

Looking back now the whole thing is kind of dumb and has more holes than a swiss cheese :/

But dragons ...
So these four guardian dragons would each have some kind of divine power as part of their duty ... even the gods wanted Zhyulam gone you see.
Each guardian resided in one of the four cardinal directions ... the makeup of the demiplane was such, that in the center you would have normal lands and the further you wandered into one direction, the more of one particular element you would encounter ... until you would end up on the border to one of the four elemental planes.
In the north we had the endless forest, which would eventually give way to floating plants and finally only air and ice.
To the east we had the great sea, to the south the fiery wastes and in the west the great mountains.

As squeen has a thing going on for names...
The four guardian dragon were:
Firomalleon, Green Guardian of the North
Talimeera, Black Guardian of the East
Mollakar, Copper Guardian of the West
Raxepharian, Red Guardian of the South

Obviously I didn't give a rats ass about metallic and chromatic aligments for dragons ... they were mostly good guys ... mostly.
Firomallean was basically wandering through the woods admiring their beauty, Mollakar was reading his library up and down, Raxepharian was sleeping in the hottest part of the dessert ... the only guardian taking an active interest in Sandrin was Talimeera ... and she did it by backing the mysterious Emperor of the Morningbright who had recently conquered the coastal city of Easthaven and declared his Empire of the rising Sun.

We sadly didn't play that much before the first player lost interest and real life came in the way ... but it was fun times.

Some DM notes ...
The Ahor'Cazay were my oh so smart attempt of giving the orcs a backstory.
The Ahor'Cazay were a highly advanced civ, their homeworld was dying so they fled. They got mutated and twisted (Think Hellraiser) into the Ahorcas ... basically highly intelligent, magical orcs. When Zhyulam was bound and banished most Ahorcas were already dead but a few could flee. Most Ahorcas lost their minds when their dark master was banished and reverted to some form of mindless animals ... one generation later you had orcs.

I learned my fair share back then and it was great fun all in all .. but I would do so much differently nowadays ;)
The only thing that really stuck with me was Zhyulam ... the interdimensional, god eating eldritch abomination ... to this day I sometimes namedrop Zhyulam into games and settings as kind of a low-key background threat ;)
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8, 8, I forget what is for
@Grützi : Crazy stuff!

I admit to being a bit of a "Kitchen Sink"-ist. Not all in one place, but endless isolated "regional tropes", because I want my players to get a taste of everything (eventually). Gonzo, but against a more stable and rational world back-drop. Stay close to home---vanilla medieval human woes with a very, very light touch of magic. Go into the Mythic Unknown---crazy stuff happens.

Things I liked best:
Eldritch abomination (Zhyulam) found the ark, subdued and mutated the people on board...
A nice baddie!

In the north we had the endless forest, which would eventually give way to floating plants and finally only air and ice.
That stirs my imagination!

Mollakar, Copper Guardian of the West
The best name IMO. Can I steal it for something else (a Human General)? Ok, maybe just half of it (Rokar...or something like that...already got too many evil M's)

Thanks for sharing.
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Should be playing D&D instead
I have nothing against the Kitchen-Sinks as is.
The thing about Fantasy Kitchen Sinks is that you can tell great stories in them if you do it right.
The best FKS-Stories I knew of are these, were the fact that the world is a Fantasy Kitchen Sink is part of the central premise.

The Comic "Fables" for example takes this concept and simply runs with it ... everything is "real" there somewhere and it works ... because the FKS is a central part of the story ... not just a backdrop to put even more crazy stuff into it.

But all to often this approach is simply used to allow everyone to play/use everything.

Golarion (Pathfinder campaign world) for example has a small nation called Alkenstar that is the only nation that has firearms (because they invented them) ... yet this has almost no ramifications for the setting ... Alkenstar only exists, so that players can play a gunslinger, say "Oh I'm from Alkenstar" and be done with it.
In fact you can sort all nations on the Pathfinder campaign setting according to which player tastes they cater to.
Each nation got one thing, one defining feature that sets it apart ... and this feature is the reason it was put in-game ... so every kind of player can play everything ...

Andor: Freedomland
Cheliax: Devil worshippers
Galt: Revolutionary france
Taldor: Decadent Royality
Brevoy: Game of Thrones (no seriously, it is game of thrones)
Nidal: Cenobite worshippers
Ustalav: Transylvania
Mendev: The Crusades
and so on ...

And while I think that is fine in and on itself ... it is just not my approach. I think good borders make good games and strengthen the creativity.
You've got to know what you want from your game, your setting (as in the game/setting you design) ...

Yeah .. I really taken a liking to this guy. He/It is basically the big bad of my other campaign setting also.

Funny that ... it's my favourite name too.
I honestly can't tell you where the others came from ... but Mollakar came from one of my favourite TV-Shows: Babylon 5
I kinda merged the names of my two favourite characters from this awesome show Londo Mollari and G'kar --> Mollakar
Take it, make it our own, report what it became ;)


8, 8, I forget what is for
On FKS: I couldn't abid that sort of Kingdom motif stuff, but one-dude and his henchmen in the underworld might have some firearms (...reasons.), or someone might be a gene-manipulator. But nothing widespread or among the civilized lands (i.e. no normalization of the odd). I do steal for all source---not just Tolkien.
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Should be playing D&D instead
Yeah ... I get you. And there is a crucial difference between what you do and what Pathfinder does (in my opinion at least).

First when the party meets your gun-wielding gonzo dude in the underworld .. well, they are actually meeting him. They have firsthand experience, they get to talk, fight, do stuff with him (probably gun related stuff ... Hey ... I'm not judging here ;) )
Most players in Pathfinder will never have anything to do with Alkenstern ... it's basically a footnote to explain some weird class you can play if you want. (Random fact: I played my fair share of PF and meet a few gunslingers ... and they all never had anything to do with their homecountry. Even for the characters in question, it was basically a line on the sheet to justify them playing this class)
So you shape the world through action and experience ... while PF does it through DM text and footnotes.

Second ... A deviation from the norm can work to terrific effect to establish something as a threat, as something marvelous or noticeable ... if done with care. So your gonzo gun dude would stand out precisely because he is unique and unexplained ... he is the deviation from the norm, the broken rule ... which is exicting.
Alkernstern on the contrary is just an addendum to the rule ... a fix to allow something that in my opinion nobody ever needed to fix
So it becomes just another thing in the background.

Ok ... back on topic heres the second thingy

I wrote this setting for a little campaign in the excellent "Beyond the Wall" System.
Before we even began playing I had a session zero with my three players were we discussed in great detail what each of us wanted from this campaign, the playstyle we wanted, what we didn't want, that we definetly wanted and so on.
This session zero informed many of my choices in worldbuilding later on. In general i can only recommend a session zero if you can manage to get one together ... it'll make your life as DM easier in so many ways ;)

In the endless fields of chaos and order that stretch across the infinity of what is not quite yet time and space there once happened a strange accident.
A center of order and a node of chaos collided ... normaly such an incident would be impossible, but that didn't change the fact that it happened.
Naturally the nodes of order and chaos were anihilated when they came into contact with each other and that humongous explosion of anti-energy left something unheard of in existence ... a void.
Yet not quite a void ... you see, the colission of pure order with chaos didn't extinguish everything of the two prime participants ... three smaller nodes, points of light really, survived.
These were:
Tabestan the yellow Star of Chaos
Zemestan the blue Star of Order
Gadu the red Star of Balance

Each a mixture of chaos and order, Tabestan leaned more towards chaos, Zemestan more toward order, while Gadu was standing between them in the middle.
First everything seemed fine and the stars conversed and learned much about themselves. Then they noticed, that the void the existed in was slowly being consumed by the everlasting tides of chaos and order.
To stop this the stars constructed the great sphere ... an enormous spherical shell to encase their void and protect them from the outside.
After this they set themselves the task of creating children to learn even more ... thus the planets were born.
Each star created two planets ... one with each of the other stars ... so that in the end six planets populated the great sphere, dancing in their parents light trough the void.
The six planets were:
Hawa the planet of air
Ataz the planet of fire
Jax the planet of water
Zamin the planet of earth
Tembre the planet of fluidity
Fereste the planet of rigidity

Each had a mind and a personality of its own.
For a while everything was fine, then disaster struck.
A fragment of some unknown being crashed through the great sphere and struck Gadu, shattering the star and killing the mighty being.
Gadu was split into three parts by the impact: Body, Mind and Soul.
Its body was shattered into thousand smaller and one big fragment containing its heart. The smaller fragments crashed into the inner side of the great sphere. Still burning with Gadus might, they became what humans would later call stars.
Gadus mind was splintered along with its body ... the thousand mind fragments melded with the body fragments and gave the stars sentience.
Gadus soul remained with its heart, bound to the biggest fragment of its body.

Now the two remaining stars and planets were in peril. First they were hearbroken to having lost their sister/mother. Then they were worried about the consequences of Gadus passing.
You see ... magic is nothing more than the ability to take the raw forces, the raw creativity and power of chaos and bind it into some coherent form and function through the abilities of order and law. Gadu, being the perfectly balanced being of order and chaos was also the only one who could really use magic. While Tabestan and Zemestan and the planets had some small capacity for magic, only Gadu really excelled in it.
Now there was a big hole in the great sphere and already something wanted to get inside. The stars lacked the ability to repair the sphere without Gadu so the set in motion a complex and rather desperate plan.
The planet Fereste was send to guard the breach (later called Nazars Fire by the humans) and stop all invading forces, while the stars and the other planets started an undertaking to create a means of harnessing and using magic again.
Gadu was gone, but its soul, the source of its power was still there, bound to the biggest Fragment of its body ... but it was slowly decaying, vanishing.
From the big fragment of Gadu containing its heart, a new planet was formed that was called Gahan. The 5 remaining planets were set to the task of creating a world were "smaller" beings ... each containing a sliver of Gadus soul could live.
Thus the four elemental Worlds created from their Essence strong, powerful beings ... the elemental Dragons.
These Dragons essentially terraformed Gahan, creating Earth and Water, Plants and Animals and making a home for humanity from it.
The stars splintered Gadus soul and created the three human races from scratch, granting each human a sliver of Gadus soul.
Tembre was set to guard the soul slivers of Gadu and from then on followed Gahan on its path through the great Sphere.
Thus we get the follwing cosmology

cosmology Gahan.jpg
The known Worlds of the Cosmos (made in the year 322 after Farellons ascension)

Gahan basically loops around Tabestan and Zemestan (called Tabesta and Zem by the forgetful humans) on an orbit that resembles an eight.
Tabesta is worshipped as the Goddess of Warmth, Summer, Change and Growth, Zem is worshipped as God of Winter, Cold, Tradition and Stability.
When Gahan is in orbit around Tabesta it is warm and pleasant, summer reigns, when Gahan orbits Zem it is cold and dark, winter is in power.
The Diwar is a sphere of ice particles surrounding Zem.
One whole orbit around both suns is called a "great year" and through the complexity of orbits and the will of the gods it is incredibly complex to reliably say how long a great year will last.
Nazars fire is a great nebula surrounding the breach (not that the humans know of this) that changes its primary color every 365 days, marking the passing of a "small" or "chromatic year".

So far from this ... I can write a bit more if someone is interested :)
I always wanted to polish up thiis stuff and publish it in some form.


Should be playing D&D instead
A few Designer notes:
There are only humans in this setting ... no orcs, no goblins, no fey ... that was one of the things agreed to in session zero.
Also no other planes of existence ... the elemental planes are really just the planets orbiting the suns, the souls of the dead go inside the moon Tembre ... where they are "processed" ... Basically they are stripped of most of their "magic" power to be then reincarnated into new bodies.
The harvested magc energy is then send to the suns or the planets ... whoever needs it more right now.

The plan of the suns and planets is for humanity to grow and multiply the slivers of Gadus soul to assure a constant stream of magic energy ... or to maybe someday unite humanity into a newborn Gadu. (somewhat like a benevolent matrix scenario)

A yes .. Dragons.
There are two kinds of Dragons in this setting.
The primordial elemental Dragons and the colored Dragons.
The elemental Dragons are the architects of Gahan. Each born from one of the four elemental planets, they have absolute control over their element and are akin to demigods.
They are made of their elements and either live on their homeworlds or sleep somewhere on Gahan. Some of the biggest Mountain ranges are just sleeping Earthdragons, the strongest currents in the oceans are the sleeping waterdragons, the northiwnd is an airdragon ... you get it.
As they were appointed Guardians of Gahan going to sleep isn't really that good ... so when humanity was younger (around 3000 years ago) they decided to grant some humans a small measure of their power. These humans were transformed into the first colored dragons ... which are basically your standard D&D dragons with a little twist here and there.
As the elemental dragons created all animals and plants colored dragons inherited a fondness and connection to nature. Each colored dragon can cast several spells (speak to animals for example) at will, they are nearly impossible to find when hiding in the nature and they all feel deeply connected to the lands they live in. As they descend from humans also, they also keept the magical abilities for which humanity was created ... as well as their more hideous traits. Which lead directly into the "dragonic independence wars" ...
Colored dragons were created to keep an eye on humanity while the elemental dragons slept ... but each was still bound to the elemental dragon that had created it. So some celver colored dragon of great magical might created a ritual that allowed colored dragons to basically rip the elemental essence out of an elemental dragon. As soon as this became know the colored dragons split into loyalist, staying true to their purpose and ursurpers wanting to kill their creators and become truly independent beings.
Was a whole lot of unpleasentness back then, dragonic numbers, bot elemental and colored, dwindled rapidly and some 2500 years ago the war was basically ended because nobody wanted to fight anymore.

The Heretic

Should be playing D&D instead
In defense of Golarion...
Arkenstar is a magic dead wasteland sandwiched between two adversarial, wizard ruled nations. In setting it makes a bit of sense. They needed to develop the weapons because of their situation, and they're not keen on letting the secret get out. I think the DM was supposed to be given some leeway on this. Gunpowder would by default be restricted to one minor buffer state on the southern continent, but if you were cool with it then gunpowder could be more widespread.
Some of the other areas had a lot of thought put into them, which made them quite interesting. Cheliax, has only recently become a devil-worshipping state. There was a recent civil war, see, and the royal house that eventually won made a few contracts with otherworldly beings...
But yeah, some of it blends in better with the setting than others. Ustalav, for instance, seems to stick out like a sore thumb to me. It doesn't seem organic like some of the other states.

(I like reading campaign fluff, though I usually only run homebrew)

As for dragons, I haven't used any lately. They're to be rare and BIG EVENTS when they finally are encountered. Though there is that neighboring city-state that is ruled to a roguish prick who took over the town by slaying the black dragon that was attacking it. Very mysterious. The PCs and this despot don't get along.


Should be playing D&D instead
@The Heretic:
Yeah .. I may have been a bit too harsh up there ... my main point was not, that the setting is badly written ... most parts work very well.
I even played a campaign in Brevoy that worked like a charm ... It is just that when you put everything together on the big map you can'T help but wonder why the world hasn't gone to hell three times the last week alone.

the fluff for this natiuon makes total sense ... even the sandwiched betwenn Nex and Geb part works really well ... I just never met a gunslinger ingame that really had anything to do with the place ... maybe tha tleft a bitter taste in my mouth.
An I still think if someone invented the gun in a fantasy setting no amount of control would keep that stuff a secret. This is one of the things that rubbed me thewrong way in Legend of the five rings also (even though there you have a halfway good explanation too ... the rigidity of the social hierachy)
And you're right regarding Cheliax ... it was this big continent spanning empire that slwoly crumbled and turned to devil worship to regain some measure of it's power ... sounds good, works like a charm.

The Heretic

Should be playing D&D instead
Lol, I didn't even notice our divergent spellings on the nation's name. We're both wrong, it's Alkenstar.

I can certainly see why that would bug you. I think part of that falls on the DM though. When they introduced the gunslinger class they had a whole write up on how to integrate it into your world. If Alkenstar is written in and quickly forgotten, why bother? It's not working.

I DM'ed one of the Adventure Paths and actually let the players make gunslingers to their hearts' content (my homebrew is gun free). I went for a medium level of integration---guns were rather rare but they were starting to spread. And if you wanted some of the highest tech stuff, like rifles, you'd have to find a way to get it from Alkenstar. Ahh, that was a fun campaign. They loved all the trouble they got into with the guns jamming, etc.

Anyway, I was getting a little touchy, you know, being the pathfinder playing OSR dungeon-loving heretic that I am.

Finally, which Brevoy AP was that? The Kingmaker one?


8, 8, I forget what is for
@Grutzi: Whoa! That some serious cosmology. I have never dipped my toe into those waters. Heady stuff!

Truth be told, I have such a hard time with benevolent dragons. Man-eaters, all of mine (...all one of them).

What's not in doubt is that you are one creative soul (who keeps winning DP's design contest).
Keep it up!


Should be playing D&D instead
@The Heretic:
I DMed the Kingmaker AP once many years ago ;)
I was fascinated by the idea of a PF Sandbox-Hexcrawl hybrid ... Didn't work out quite as intended and the campaign was basically abandoned when we were in the middle of part 2.
Group had lost interest, the kingdom rules were not to our liking and some other stuff.
But ... Everyone thought the nation of Brevoy was really cool ... so we started a new group right there.

No problem with you defending PF ... it isn't the devil some make it out to be ... I just had bad experiences with it (and people who run games in it) so take what I say about PF with a grain of salt ;)

Kind words my good sir.

I love it when a cosmology has deepth and some meat to play around with ;)

My dragons tend to be on the good-ish side of things.
My dragons almost always are semi-divine, force of nature, eldritch abomination kind of things ... simple flying lizards that spew fire are boring :)

I try my best to be creative ... I think creativity, like almost everything else, can be trained.
And DPs contest are fun, especially if you win them ... but I wouldn't read to much into it ;)

The Heretic

Should be playing D&D instead
I was very excited for Kingmaker when it came out. Two attempts to use it later I've come to the conclusion that if I get the hankering for nation-building in D&D I should just play Civ4 or Total War instead.